Category Archives: Awareness

My kids, your kids, our kids

After a couple week blogging hiatus caused by my intense travel and conference schedule, as well as several unexpected work and family issued that needed my undivided attention, I’m excited to “re-emerge” this week with a post on a subject that many of you know is near and dear to my heart.

The Father’s love for the fatherless, and our corporate and individual callings to love orphans, widows, and at-risk communities as God loves them.

Last Sunday, I had the honor of preaching at my church about why we have a special place in our hearts for orphaned children.

A former orphan with his mom and dad at La Providencia

A former orphan with his mom and dad at La Providencia

Why it just doesn’t sit right with us when the fatherless and widows are treated as second-class humans (as we’ve read about in the recent Providence blog posts).

Why we should not stop pursuing better love and care for all orphaned children until they are all loved as your kids and my kids are loved . . . as children of God who each have unique and amazing gifts, talents, abilities, and callings that can change our world for the better.

Whether or not you relate with these sentiments (and especially if you do not relate to them), I invite you to listen to the sermon by clicking here and playing the 5/12/13 sermon entitled, “My Kids, Your Kids, Our Kids” (the sermon starts at 2:54 (prior to that is a personal Mother’s Day “message” to my church family)).

I hope that the words encourage you to really think about your personal calling to love orphaned children in some real way.  And if you’re already actively caring for orphans, I pray that this encourages you to continue loving them with excellence, as God loves them.

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the sermon through comments to this post.

Q – Nuggets from Day 1

As expected, Day 1 of Q was a whirlwind of great content, conversations, and collaboration.  Also as expected, it was exhausting and will take a few days to process.  That being said, I want to give you a few nuggets that I gleaned from the speakers yesterday.  (If you read this today, you can watch the first several talks at qideas.org/lalive).

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“The audience wants to experience transformation.” Bobette Buster

“God cares about the patterns of life – he cares about the cultural good.” Dr. Richard Mouw

“Social media is like middle school for 40 year olds.” Rebekah Lyons

“Secrets lose power when they exit the dark.” Rebekah Lyons

“It comes down to story; story is king.” Jason Russell

“When you’ve gone totally crazy, you can say ‘no” and people respect that.” Jason Russell

“Coming to the end of our expectations makes us realize we are on the brink of true beauty, joy, and peace.” Tim Chaddick

“Are we living with the divine expectation that God wants to meet us today?” Margaret Feinberg

“The Bible is not made to fit a cause.” Father Elias Chacour

“[Bikinis] cause men to see women as objects rather than someone to connect with.  Wearing a bikini gives women power . . . it gives women the power to shut down a man’s ability to see them as women and to only see them as objects.” Jessica Rey

“We’ve lost the idea of ‘sticking with it.’  We live in an environment that is all about projects and assignments, not careers.” Brad Lomenick

“Do or do not. There is no try.” Yoda (OK, he didn’t talk live on stage – but he did make a guest appearance via video)

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If you weren’t able to make it to Q this year, I hope that this gives you a little taste of the great stuff I’m learning this year.  I’ll save an update on the great collaborative activity for another day.

When “why?” is not the right question

In light of the tragic and high-profile suicide of Matthew Warren (Pastor Rick Warren’s son) this past weekend, I want to re-visit some thoughts I wrote down in a post last year about how God spoke to me in the months following my sister-in-law’s suicide in August 2010.  I hope that these words help, in some little way, anyone who has been affected by suicide (which, unfortunately, is most of us).

I also hope that you join me in prayer for the Warren family during this incredibly difficult season – that they have a peace and calm through it that can only come from our heavenly Father.

So here are my unedited thoughts, originally posted on the Providence blog on September 30, 2011:

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SusanneOften people ask “Why?” when bad things happen in life, to them or to others.  And that question certainly permeates conversations when a family member or friend commits suicide.  Suicide is something that I never experienced “close-up” until last year, when my extremely talented and beautiful sister-in-law took her own life in her home while her husband and children were sleeping.  I’ll never forget the moment I heard the news or the weeks following her death when our family was searching to figure out why. Why would she have killed herself?  Why she couldn’t recognize her incredible God-given talents? Why she just couldn’t receive and believe compliments when others praised her work?  Why did God let this happen?  Why?  Why?  Why?

While asking “Why?” is a very common response to tragedy, and is a very natural part of the grieving process to help us try to understand and bring emotional closure, I have come to see over the past 13 months or so that it just might be the wrong question to ask.  Especially in relation to why a particular person committed suicide.  Not only because we likely will never know just why our loved one chose to take his or her own life, but because it often causes bitterness and anger, and, consequently, keeps us from asking the more important question: “To what end?”

Dungy with sonIn Tony Dungy’s (former coach of the Indianapolis Colts) book, Quiet Strength, Dungy recounts the most difficult experience he ever had in his life when his son took his own life at the age of 18.  In so doing, Dungy discusses the need to ask “What?,” not “Why?”:

“Why do bad things happen?  I don’t know.  Why did Jamie die?  I don’t know. But I do know that God has the answers, I know He loves me, and I know He has a plan – whether it makes sense to me or not.  Rather than asking why, I’m asking what.  What can I learn from this?  What can I do for God’s glory and to help others?”

Quiet StrengthThe book goes on to chronicle how Dungy’s life answered those questions with some very life-giving stories and conversations.  Here is but one such story that Dungy shares in his book:

“One worried father asked me to call his son, who he thought might be contemplating taking his life.  We spoke several times over the next few weeks.  ‘Why are you taking the time to call me?’  the son finally asked.  ‘Because if someone had been able to help my son with a phone call, I hope they would have taken the time,’ [Dungy responded.] His dad called me later to thank me for helping his son get through that time.  I was happy to know that our experience, as unbearable as it was, had actually helped another family.”

God’s plan in all of this may never make sense to us and we may never know why my sister-in-law committed suicide.  And there still is a whole lot of mourning and healing going on, and likely will continue in some ways for the rest of our lives.   But, fortunately, as part of the healing process, I have seen first-hand over the past 13 months how asking the question, “To what end?,” has resulted in some pretty awesome things.

Though we’ve always been pretty close, our family has bonded and supported each other in ways that I have not seen before.

One of my sister-in-laws, Brea, has championed the cause of American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (afsp.org), which fights against these tragedies through research, training, education, and legislative reform on issues surrounding mood disorders, depression, and suicide.

And my mother-in-law has also taken up the cause by starting her own grass roots campaign, “Survivors of Suicidors – it’s OK to talk.”  Through the campaign, she is encouraging survivors to talk through their pain and loss, and to start asking the “What?” questions.

So, while we will all miss Susanne dearly for the rest of our lives, we can rest in the fact that God is using her tragic death to bring glory to Him and to help others in amazing ways, seen and unseen.  We just need to keep asking the two questions that guided Dungy through the valley he found himself in after his son’s death.

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What are your thoughts?  What have you learned and/or how have you seen God work in the wake of a loved one’s suicide?

Don’t settle for “good enough”

The idea of “good enough” pervades our society.  Unfortunately for us and our world, “good enough” has come to mean a whole lot less than excellence.

Schools are teaching to the lowest common denominator.

We keep re-electing politicians despite ridiculously low approval ratings.

We praise simple relief work and the “something is better than nothing” approach to fighting extreme poverty and the global orphan crisis.

363858_bullseyeWe have come to accept mediocrity and average as the goal.

We can never accept that as the goal.  In everything we do, we have to demand excellence – real excellence – from ourselves, our leaders, and those who we influence.

What are you doing today to pursue excellence?